Old Habits

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"I'm just askin' ye for a bit of discretion, Peng, that's all. I dun want Fern ta know about me... about my connection to the Queen. Me and Fern are still, uh, newly courtin', ye see? And somethin' like, oh you know, being the bloody bastard son of royalty is bound ta complicate things," Taen whispered to the baker while Fern ate her fill of Peng's delicious pastries.

She had tried to pay for them from her newly found bag of gold, but the dwarven baker would not take the coin.

"Lyin' ta her isn't bound ta make this relationship last, either. Ye should just tell the lass, Taen. It does no one any good ta lie about who ye are," Peng hastily replied as Fern walked over and sat down beside her new love.

Taen the Terror, as he had been known in the Kelgrond Central Royal Gladiator Arena, kissed Fern on the cheek as she sat down. "Don't ye eat too many of Peng's cakes, Ferny. After the dozen or so I've already devoured, we're likely ta put the poor fella out of business!"

Fern giggled and pinched Taen's arm quite hard. "Don't ye tell me what ta do, Mr. Gladiator. I may not be able ta whip ya in a fight, but I can still try."

"Don't either of ye worry about eatin' too much. Take as much as ye like, I've plenty more," Peng said, waving their protests away. "So, ye said that ye've come into some gold and ye want to live a life of luxury for a bit. I can understand that, aye. But, and pardon my rudeness in saying so, but why waste the coin? Why not invest it! Ye want to be rid o' yer old lives, there's no place better ta do that than here in Valekshire! I'm the only bloody dwarf in town, which means two things... one, ye won't have to worry about runnin' into folk from yer past - and two, I'll finally have someone ta drink with down at the Fat Sausage; someone that can hold their drink like a dwarf, that is, and not pass out after the first ten pints!"

Taen smiled at the friendly old dwarf and then looked to Fern. It was her gold, after all. She had been the one to bring him on the adventure, and Taen would lay no claim to the riches found in the lake. "What say ye, Ferny? Do ye want to settle down with the humans, maybe start a business here?"

"Oh, I dunno, Taen. Maybe we just stay for a week and see how we like it. There's no rush, is there?"

"Nay, lass. We can take it slow," he replied, then turned to the baker and said, "Thank ye for the suggestion, Peng. We may yet be seeking yer expert advice on the subject soon, but for now, we just need ta know where a good inn is."

"Nay, not just a good inn. Tell us where the best one in town is, Mr. Peng," Fern corrected, her eyes twinkling with the prospect of being pampered for the first time in her life.

A few days later, after lots of relaxation, decent human food, nice ale, and massages, Fern and Taen returned to Peng's Buns so that they could speak with the baker about his suggestion.

"This town needs a dwarven tavern," Taen said, full of pride at the genius of his idea.

Peng laughed heartily at that and began to explain his own tragic story in trying to open such a place in Valekshire over the years, which eventually led to his owning a bakery selling dwarven pastries and bread. "The Town Council won't allow to this day, I'm afraid."

"Damn," Fern said. "I was looking forward to owning me own place. After working at the Grinding Wheel for so long, I kind of miss the atmosphere. It would have been nice ta be the boss of such a place."

Taen looked down at his feet, angered by the ignorance that Peng had described. Fern wanted this so bad, and Taen wanted her to have it. "What if... what if I were ta use me Ma's name, Peng? If I threw around my family history, do ye think they'd budge on their decision?"

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